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Next month’s set of new releases from the Naxos Music Group includes a documentary about the life of the great Mstislav Rostropovich, rediscovery of an operatic masterpiece by Pierre Gaveaux, keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, and orchestral works Joseph Marx and Romuald Twardowski. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
2.110583 [DVD]
Documentary filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon has earned worldwide acclaim for his outstanding portraits of legendary performers. His subjects to date include Murray Perahia, Sviatoslav Richter and Gennadi Roshdestvensky, to name but a few. His latest production is The Indomitable Bow, an in-depth account of the life of cellist Mstislav Rostropovich that will certainly be our star attraction for December. It probes Rostropovich’s life and work in ways not previously possible with the use of rare and unreleased footage, including commentary from distinguished figures such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Rostropovich’s legacy has already guaranteed his immortality as an artist, but The Indomitable Bow provides us with those added dimensions that bring his character and work significantly closer to us all. This is a must-see release, that comes in both DVD and Blu-ray (NBD0082V) formats.

2.110591 [DVD]
This is the latest in a long line of highly successful Naxos recordings by Opera Lafayette, but it’s the first to be released on DVD. More significantly, the recording is of a rediscovered masterpiece that has lain hidden for centuries. With its revolutionary atmosphere, a tale of devotional romance and a dramatic rescue from captivity, Pierre Gaveaux’s Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal was the direct forerunner to Beethoven’s Fidelio. It became entirely overshadowed by its famous successor, but now shines again in this splendid performance conducted by Ryan Brown, Opera Lafayette’s founder and artistic director. With its striking presentation and intriguing symbolism, this production really is something opera fans should not miss, being both significant in operatic history and highly attractive in its own right.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0085V).

Joseph Marx (1882–1964) was one of the leading figures in Austria’s music scene during his lifetime, but his music was out of step with 20th-century modernism and most of his scores disappeared completely from concert programmes after his death. Collectors who are always on the lookout for new repertoire built on lush, impressionistic orchestral sounds, enriched here by Marx’s magical touch for harmony and orchestration, will certainly find this recording irresistible. Originally released in 2003 on the ASV label, it’s the first in a four-volume set of Marx’s orchestral works to be re-released by Naxos. MusicWeb International described it as ‘a major discovery ... rhapsodic, sunny, bold, soused in melody and eloquent with the voices of nature … you will be losing out if you do not get this excellent disc,’ sentiments I certainly wouldn’t argue with.

“What a joy it has been to explore Joseph Marx’s opus. I hope that these recordings will help establish this important composer’s special place in 20th Century music. The overwhelming beauty of the Nature Trilogy, together with Marx’s deep understanding of orchestration and texture will in fact help to bring new appreciation to this widely misunderstood yet towering Austrian musical figure. In particular, the Nature Trilogy is exemplary in its pastoral atmosphere, combined with a profound connection to the German Romantic style.”

Steven Sloane

Very little music by the Polish composer Romuald Twardowski has been recorded, which marks out this release as warranting special attention. You’ll be hard pressed to find these five orchestral pieces gathered together anywhere else. A student of Nadia Boulanger, Twardowski’s music attracts and sustains attention through its clarity and masterly blend of tradition and modernity. The programme’s variety is just one attraction, swinging from the flamenco-inflected Fantazja hiszpanska to the highly original salute to George Gershwin in Capriccio in Blue and the mix of suave melodies and rhythmic propulsion of Serenade for String Orchestra. Four of the works spotlight the talents of award-winning violinist Kinga Augustyn, and the whole is brought together with authority by conductor Mariusz Smolij who has already made a number of highly regarded recordings of Eastern European music for Naxos.

The ongoing 35-volume edition of Domenico Scarlatti's complete keyboard sonatas (555 of them in all) is one of the pillars of our piano catalogue, and we take a step nearer to its completion with this release of Volume 21. Previous recordings, all made on the piano, have regularly received wide critical acclaim. While they are performed by a variety of artists, we welcome back Soyeon Kate Lee for this latest release. She was last heard on Vol. 8, which had MusicWeb International commenting: ‘Soyeon Lee is clearly a rising star. This playing is effortless and she invariably seems to catch the most apposite of this composer’s many moods.’ Soyeon was the first-prize winner of the 2010 Naumburg International Piano Competition and the 2004 Concert Artist Guild International Competition.

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